Mindy Kaling at SXSW: 'My Life is Constantly Disappointing People Politically'

Some Mild Cable Envy From 'Mindy Project' Writer, Creator, Star

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Credit: SXSW

Having broken boundaries by getting "The Mindy Project" on the air, Mindy Kaling often gets criticized for not, you know, breaking more boundaries.

Why doesn't "The Mindy Project," in which Ms. Kaling stars as a successful doctor, include more women of color in the cast? Why does Ms. Kaling's character seem to only date white men?

She's got an answer, though not one a broadcast network would allow on TV. "I'm a fucking Indian woman with my own fucking network television show," Ms. Kaling said during a panel at SXSW Interactive on Sunday. "I always want to do more, but my full-time job is not being a casting director for 'The Mindy Project.'"

Answering a question about race in the world of TV from Marie Claire Editor-in-Chief Anne Fulenwider, Ms. Kaling said she tries not to focus too much on being an Indian-American woman, because it's a distraction and stops her from being productive. "I don't want to deny who I am but I can't rely on it," she said. "I can't just think about my legacy."

Working on a broadcast network has plenty of challenges as it is, amid a widely-proclaimed "new golden age of television" blooming over on cable and on Netflix. "I've been on network TV since I was 24, so the fact that you can do whatever you want [on cable] is very jealous-making," said Ms. Kaling, who was a writer and cast member on "The Office" before creating "The Mindy Project."

"We can't swear, we can't have sex, we can't have long pauses, we can't do episodes 29 minutes long." The constraints "hone you and make you better," she said, but also make it wrong to pit broadcast comedies like "The Mindy Project" or "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" against Showtime's "Nurse Jackie" during awards season.

Castmate Ike Barinholtz, however, gushed about Ms. Kaling and the show on Fox. "It's rare on network TV to do what she has done," he said. "On cable you have Louis [C. K.] and Lena [Dunham] who have done that, but that's a small audience," Mr. Barinholtz added. "For a humongous company to see your vision is cool."

Fox renewed "The Mindy Project" for a third season last week, so Ms. Kaling can probably bank on another year of questions about encouraging diversity in TV. "I have to leave my job to talk about how important it is for women of color to have jobs, but if I want to go do my job they say I'm not supporting women," she said. "My life is constantly disappointing people politically."

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